Media Freedom in Pakistan: Curse or a Blessing?
The right to pursue knowledge is often an underrated phenomenon especially in respect to current political scenario. We live in a world overloaded with information and keeping something hidden has become a tougher task than it was 20 years ago. This eruption of information has resulted in the growth of a class amongst the masses who are more politically and socially aware than the previous generations. However, it is also important to realize the costs that this knowledge can concur on one’s individuality and perception of events.
Media in all forms is a prime source of information today. It helps mould people’s opinion, is a catalyst for social progress and is also creating a populace which is politically aware. There are multiple private news channels, numerous magazines and newspapers along with varied Radio channels in operation today in Pakistan. Much of this progress, ironically, has come under the tutelage of a military dictator of Pervez Musharraf in the past decade. This begs a question: does the lack of provision of knowledge in totalitarian regime impede the social progress of its subjects?
Pakistani media industry has blossomed from a sole state-sponsored TV channel to an efficient profiting industry. It’s not a surprise that many of the private TV channels are run purely as a business entity because of which journalistic ethics suffers unfortunate casualties. However, it is these channels which are responsible for much of public awakening too. They are responsible for deliverance of the most relevant and sensationalist news stories which would probably have remain dormant in the past. The correlation between corruption and the level of media coverage can also serve as an interesting research hypotheses for the academics. This is because of the importance given to covering and bringing to fore the major corruption scandals. It is also safe to say that indeed no one is safe from the prying eyes of media in Pakistan today (presently Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister have both been under the hammer for their obvious exploits).
Another interesting aspect of the Pakistani media industry is that it is still very young and prone to mistakes. Manipulation and misinformation are the usual plagues which affect the industry still in its infancy. However, it should also be ensured that these practices are particularly deemed intolerant. This presents the society with moral dilemma of acting as judge for the authenticity of media behavior. I say this because media channels are run as business entities in Pakistan meaning that they believe in the cut-throat world of profit generation. This results in the creation of sensationalist news reporting with creating an atmosphere of excitement (negative mostly and positive) thereby translating into increased TRP’s. Honest and seasoned journalists would agree towards creating a more responsible reporting environment based on strict journalistic ethics but will they also be appreciative of laws of supply and demand remains to be seen.
I have witnessed media shackling under totalitarian regimes whose actions are absolutely vulnerable to internal criticism. Their subjects as a result suffer from lack of political awareness and naivety due to this restricted flow of information. The Arab spring has brought to the fore a new class of media which has given voice to the most passive of them all. Social media outlets of Twitter and Facebook served as a catalyst during these Arab Springs which demonstrates the power of media if utilized effectively and for the right purpose. However, there are obvious costs attached to practicing our right to acquiring knowledge and promoting media freedom in order to attain valuable information about our society.
Knowledge is like lost innocence, however unsettling you find it, it can never be unknown. It is then left for us to decide whether we carry on with this pursuance of knowledge and information or settle for living in a hypothetical world where our actions are left un-scrutinized.